Critics’ Picks

Julian Hoeber, Demon Hill, 2010, mixed media, dimensions variable. Installation view.

Los Angeles

Julian Hoeber

Hammer Museum
10899 Wilshire Boulevard
October 30–January 23

Teetering with a delicate joy, Demon Hill, 2010, the sinister roadside attraction seemingly designed by Donald Judd’s carny cousin, currently resides too far above the ground (the second-floor patio of the Hammer) to be a supernatural turn or geologic irregularity. Hardly a hidden slope to cloud the senses or to convince the credulous of the supernatural, Demon Hill wears all its tricks on its sleeve, angling to be less a simple trick than wonderfully tricky. Constructed with steel frame and handsomely cheap plywood, and studded with fluorescent light tubes, the clever concoction—a small chamber skewed to a startling degree—finds itself in the entirely surprising position of making Minimalism fun. The landscape this time ain’t some debased backwater or former industrial wasteland, but instead the confluence of the cheap-ass thrills of the tourist trap and the kind of enlightenment only achieved by staring at tilted planks of plywood for a really long time.

The artist Julian Hoeber is the man responsible for Demon Hill, and his previous projects have plucked their poetics from a similar source: the sometimes neurotic confluence of popular culture, art, and psychology. Hoeber has in the past “killed” friends in a send-up of slasher films, repeatedly shot himself in the head (or rather casts of his head), and crafted wall works of Op-art vertigo punctured by thought bubbles containing menacing strains of existential awareness. Demon Hill forwards the artist’s practice, as he has managed in this major work to mix high-concept contemporary art history with the lowbrow thrill of the fun house, with neither taking center stage. For the educated museumgoer in on the joke, the chuckle is a deep one, while the kiddies creak their dirty white tennis shoes step by step up the skewed surface of the plywood floor, nervously giggling the whole way.